Monday, November 11, 2013

Kenyan Football as a Glass of Water Mixed With Oil

The Kenya Premier League (KPL) has come to an end. We witnessed the pomp and color of the green army way before the end of the scheduled league matches. I take this opportunity to thank Gor Mahia fans, followers, players and managements for winning the trophy after eighteen years of hard work and determination despite the challenges witnessed on and off the pitch.

The question to ask is Kenyan football growing or it’s on the brink of stagnation? Are we moving forward or back-tracking with our airwaves still dominated by the Barclays premier league? Leave alone our social lives, on the street you’ll hear the deep loyalty given to the foreign clubs which is also goes to branding our businesses, vehicles, houses etc. Does anyone think of developing the grassroots football? Where is the competition witnessed back in the years 1997 -2002 during the Millennium tournament, Coca-cola tournament, Koth Biro tournament just to mention but a few. Those were days when football was felt in the grassroots’ with teams like Swapo (Huruma), Otto-benecker (Mathare North), Sakayonsa ( Pumwani) among others were the home of talents for the great game we love.

So what did happen? I know of some of my friends who left football and are now languishing in misery and some are successfully playing in the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) and in the foreign leagues. I’m sorry to say Kenyan football and that of most African countries are still at the position of defining their niche in football as an economical and social pillar especially in supporting the young people who make the larger population percentage of our nations. This is an example of a glass of water mixed with oil, which when left to settle does not result in an equal mixture. This analogy illustrates a situation where the grassroots’ football in Kenya as been left to die slowly at the expense of the flourishing premier league.

The situation is even worse for women footballers as their future continues to darken. You will only hear about them when there is a regional tournament because many opportunities pop up, not for the poor hard working ladies but for individuals who are eager to make quick gains at the expense of the sport and the ladies.

 In the Kenyan situation the oil floats on the top (the top layer) meaning there are tremendous efforts and achievements if you focus on the top leagues (KPL and national wide league) and the national team (Men’s senior team). The water is the grassroots football and all other lower divisional leagues which are in a wanting situation where teams complete to get to the next stages with nothing to reward the champions or even reimburse the costly expenses of attending different matches.

from row on the right with the green jersy is me :) Picture taken the year 2000. Third from left standing in Antony Kimani currently playing for AFC Leopards in the KPL.
I was once an active footballer and currently I’m running a community club called Mathare North Rangers F.C under umbrella of the Wilsen Initiative which is a youth led initiative that urges the young people to use their talents and skills to inspire positive change despite the challenges faced. Our football team is not registered in any league owing to the current situation and without adequate funding we can only do so much. The best part is that we won’t give up and we shall try to improve the situation for the next generations to come and the is the spirit at Wilsen Initiative (Wi). Our key mandate is to use football as vehicle to tapping into our uniqueness, skills and talents while learning and inspiring positive change in our society.

For a nation like KENYA to play in prestigious tournament like the Word Cup the football managements should switch their focus on the following;
  1. Create balanced football management rules that creates a win - win for corporate and the partners involved. 
  2. Create Football Academies. 
  3. Support Local Tournaments. 
  4. Support Regional Tournaments.
  5. Support International football exchange programs.
  6. Support grassroots football
  7. Professionalize the game (it is a serious career for talented youth).
  8. Create a Scouting program for the national team (equal chance for all).
  9. Believe in a philosophy - football as a vehicle to other careers and positive social issues like football for peace etc (Think life after football for example football and education).
  10. Don't politicize the game and be transparent! 
Football for hope and development we should not give up as youth!

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